by William Trollinger
Saturday at the American Atheists Convention in North Charleston involved twelve back-to-back presentations in the (ice-cold) Marriott ballroom. Besides those mentioned in our last post, there were also presentations on:
- “The Threat of a Religious Right Supreme Court Abolishing Secular Government”
- “No Secular State, No Human Rights”
- “Unlikely Allies: The Fight to Protect the Johnson Amendment”
- “The Satanic Panic: The Witch Hunt of the Late Twentieth Century”
- “The Future of Atheist Activism”
Our presentation on Righting America at the Creation Museum was the very last presentation of the day. In our experience at academic conferences, late afternoon or early evening papers are poorly attended, as everyone is heading out for drinks and/or dinner. Given that we were going on at 5:45 PM, we assumed the crowd would be sparse, and those who were there would be distracted by thoughts of catching a cab to one of the fabulous restaurants in downtown Charleston.
We were wrong. Not only was the hall nearly full, but the attendees were quite attentive – and quite gracious in their responses and their applause. And what did we have to say in our paper (entitled “What the Creation Museum Is and Isn’t Doing and Why It Matters to Us All”?) Well, here’s the thesis statement:
The Creation Museum is not about the actual biblical text any more than it is about science. Instead, it is about using the young Earth creationist Bible as a tool in the process of constituting its evangelical and fundamentalist visitors as Christian Crusaders who must fight a culture war against atheists and secularists and feminists and progressives and liberals and those who identify as LGBTQ.
After our talk there was a book-signing, during which we had the pleasure of meeting some very interesting people, including scientists who were trying (and failing) to make sense of young Earth creationism, as well as attendees from the Deep South who talked about how they had to keep their atheism closeted. (Side note: Anyone who thinks that separation of church and state is the norm across America is kidding themselves.)
In short, the two Catholic interlopers at the 2017 American Atheists Convention were treated very well.
Your very important work disqualifies you from interloper status. You were at the convention as our guests who accepted an unsolicited invitation to participate. Too often, the Creation Museum and its parent company, Answers in Genesis, are laughed off as a silly fanatic group on the fringe of mainstream America. Your book proves otherwise, and your voice will resonate deeply with people who see no harm in “teaching both sides.” As a result, the wall that separates government from religion is fortified.
The first mission of American Atheists is to keep that wall resistant to any encroachment, and your work is invaluable to this cause, which benefits everyone; church/state separation is the best thing for both.
The second mission is to eliminate the stigma of atheism in the U.S. Every public opinion poll has reflected a pervasive yet unfounded prejudice against atheists due to the assumption that it’s impossible to be good without God. As a result, most atheists in this country are in the closet about their lack of belief. Your kind words will go a long way in helping to dispel that myth.
Thanks much, Pamela, for your good words. We agree: separation of church and state is good for everyone!